Both Georgia Tech and Georgia begin the 2019-20 golf season with top-10 rankings, as the two teams aim for a national title with veteran rosters.
Despite the loss of All-American Steven Fisk, Georgia Southern has hopes of a return to the NCAA Championship, while the state’s other Division 1 programs hope for better results this season.
GEORGIA TECH was ranked fourth in Golfweek’s pre-season poll, with the Yellow Jackets returning all five starters off last season’s time that won five times including the ACC Championship. Tech’s season ended with a disappointing missed cut in the NCAA Championship, but with three seniors and a junior who have all started since their freshman seasons, the Yellow Jackets will field a veteran, talented squad that could contend for an NCAA title.
Powder Springs’ Luke Schniederjans returns for his fourth season after a solid junior showing that included three top-5 finishes and a team-leading scoring average. Schniederjans won twice as a freshman, but does not have a college victory since, and none of Tech’s five returning starters claimed a title last season.
Senior Andy Ogletree matched Schniederjans’ trio of top-5 finishes, and will be looking for a big senior year after winning the recent U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst. Ogletree has improved every season and will team with Schniederjans to give the Jackets one of the strongest 1-2 punches in college golf.
Tyler Strafaci is Tech’s third returning three-year starter, and joined Schniederjans as a tournament winner his freshman season. He recorded four top10s last season. Noah Norton has seven top10s over his two seasons as a starter, and qualified for the 2019 U.S. Open, sharing medalist honors in the sectional qualifier at Hawk’s Ridge.
Connor Howe moved into the Tech starting lineup midway through his freshman season and stayed there, but will be challenged to retain his starter status this season by other members of the team’s 11-player roster, including redshirt freshman Luka Karaulic of Dacula and freshman Andy Mao of Johns Creek, the top player on the state’s best high school golf team this past season.
The Yellow Jackets open their season this weekend in the annual Carpet Capital Collegiate at The Farm in Rocky Face, and will again host the Golf Club of Georgia Invitational Oct. 18-20.
GEORGIA also returns its entire starting lineup, and will likely have even more competition for playing time than their in-state rival. The Bulldogs were ranked seventh in the Golfweek pre-season poll, and will be led by Gainesville senior Spencer Ralston, who is starting for his fourth season.
Ralston won the annual Linger Longer Invitational at Reynolds Lake Oconee and was third in the NCAA Regional played at the UGA course, leading the Bulldogs to victory in that event, one of three team wins on the season.
Junior Davis Thompsonof St. Simons Island was the medalist in the Athens Regional, and also returns along with brothers Trent and Trevor Phillips. Trent, a freshman, got off to a sensational start with finishes of third or better in four of his first five college tournaments, and earned second team All-America honors. Trevor, a senior, has started the last two seasons.
Will Kahlstorf, a sophomore from Watkinsville, moved into the starting lineup as a freshman last season, but was not among the six players competing for the Bulldogs in their season-opening event at Pebble Beach.
Will Chandler, a senior from Atlanta who has seen sporadic action in his career, started in the Carmel Cup along with senior Calum Masters, who sat out last season after transferring from Troy.
The Bulldogs placed fourth in an 8-team field in their opener, with Trent Phillips tying for third at 11-under 205. Thompson (72-66-71) and Ralston (70-69-70) tied for eighth at 209, but the team’s other three starters produced just two sub-par scores between them in the five-counting-scores format. Chandler’s closing 69 was the best score by the trio. After having to count an 81 in a 4-over opening round, the Bulldogs shot 10 and 11-under the next two days, but could not make up ground on the top three teams – Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Arkansas.
Others who could compete for playing time include highly touted freshman Connor Creasyand Johns Creek’s Nicholas Cassidy, one of the state’s top junior players in recent years who joined the UGA squad as a freshman midway through last season but did not play.
The Bulldogs return to the West Coast for the Nike Invitational in Portland in late September before closing out their Fall schedule in Hawaii in early November.
GEORGIA SOUTHERN lost first team All-American Steven Fisk of Stockbridge to graduation, but return seven golfers who played extensively last season on a team that placed fourth in the Stanford Regional to qualify for the NCAA Championship.
Fisk, who won six times as a senior, placed second in the NCAA Championship and earned a spot on the U.S. Walker Cup team, will be hard to replace, but the Eagles have plenty of depth to help offset his departure.
Returning starters are seniors Brett Barron of Cumming and Jake Maples of McDonough, and sophomores Ben Carr of Columbus and Colin Bowles of Albany.
Carr had four top 10s and the team’s second lowest scoring average. Bowles, a former Georgia Amateur champion while he was in high school, took over as a starter in the Spring after transferring from Ohio State. Maples, a junior college transfer, and Barron both had top-3 finishes last season, with three-year starter Barron the team’s most experienced player.
Junior Avery Price and sophomores Mason Williams and Macon’s Wilson Andress all made at least nineappearances for the Eagles last season, with Andress one of four Georgia Southern golfers other than Fisk with at least two top-10 finishes.
Seniors Luukas Alakulppi of Valdosta and Alexander DeRosa of Atlanta and junior Jacob Bayer of Lawrenceville have all played at times for the Eagles, and add depth to an already deep roster. Georgia Southern won four tournaments last season, including the long-running Schenkel Invitational in Statesboro, the Georgia State hosted event at Berkeley Hills and the Sun Belt Championship.
The Eagles open their Fall schedule at Kiawah Island Sept. 9-10 and play two events later this month in North Carolina.
KENNESAW STATE graduated three of its top players and had another starter transfer, leaving the Owls with only two returning regulars.
Senior Connor Coffee of Peachtree City has started for three seasons and junior Brady Keran of Canton has started the last two, but they represent what little experience the Owls have on their roster. Among the losses were seniors Wyatt Larkin of Morganton and Jake Fendt of Cumming, while Cumming’sGrant Sutliff transferred after his freshman season.
Justin Kim of Rome, Connor Rostowsky of Kennesaw and Ryan Hines all played sparingly as freshmen, but may be needed to contribute more this season. Sophomore Brock Healy of Norcross has joined the team as a transfer from Valdosta State, and freshmen Takafumi Shimoji and Preston Topper, both from Suwanee, will have a chance to make an immediate impact.
The Owls open their season in the Carpet Capital at The Farm, and host the Pinetree Invitational Oct. 21-22. Kennesaw’s best showing last season was a runner-up finish at Pinetree.
MERCER loses its top player – Stanton Schorr of Columbus – and part-time starter Brennan Bogdanovich of Cumming to graduation, but returns four starters off a team that had five finishes of fourth or better.
Juniors Tyler Copp andLino Goldin return, as does sophomore Martin Plukka. Spencer Ball of Cumming has started the last two seasons after transferring from Armstrong State, with his most notable accomplishment a victory in the 2018 Yamaha Atlanta Open.
Nolan Miller, a junior from Columbus, played infrequently last season after starting some as a freshman. He will look for more playing time this season, while Jonathan Parker of Columbus, Jay Spivey of Macon and Dan McKenzie of Atlanta all look to earn spots in the lineup as freshmen.
The Bears close out their Fall schedule with appearances in the Georgia State event at Berkeley Hills and the Kennesaw State tournament at Pinetree.
GEORGIA STATE did not enjoy much success last season, but the Panthers will field an experienced squad in 2019-20, with possible starters including two seniors and two graduate students.
Seniors Josh Edgar from Australia and Egil Gunnarsson from Iceland had the team’s lowest scoring averages last season, with Edgar notching one of just two top 10s by a Georgia State golfer. Germany’s Severin Soller, who began his college career at Mississippi State, had the other top 10, and will compete this season as a graduate student, as will Ashton Poole, a transfer from Virginia. Poole is best known in the state as the winner of the 2018 Dogwood Invitational.
Owen Sertl, a junior from Marietta, and sophomore David Li, both played a decent amount last season, and have a chance to move into the starting lineup. Freshmen Will Chambless of Culloden and Mac Thompson of Marietta will also compete for playing time.
The Panthers will again host the Autotrader Collegiate, which will be played Oct. 14-15 at Berkeley Hills.
AUGUSTA began the 2018-19 season with an 8-man roster, but was down to six players by the Spring. With one graduation and one of its scheduled top returning players no longer on the roster, the Jaguars have only four golfers with college experience along with three incoming freshmen.
The Jaguars were competitive in only a handful of tournaments last season, but qualified for the NCAA tournament as MEAC champions, the team’s annual avenue to the post-season.
Senior Gustav Andersson and sophomore Alex van Wyk,two of the Jaguars’ top three players from 2018-19 return, but Alex Shead from nearby Appling is not listed on the Fall roster after leading the team in scoring average last season.
Back this season is sophomore Viktor Lundgren and senior McCullough Pickens from Sea Island. Pickens and van Wyk both scored individual victories last season in the two tournaments the Jaguars won as a team.
The Jaguars have three freshmen on the roster, including Jack Vajda of Canton and Ben Van Wyk, Alex’s younger brother. Five of the seven players from the roster came to Augusta from outside the U.S.
Augusta opens its Fall schedule Sept. 13 in Scottsdale, Az.